Archival Choices

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team. I’ll be scouring the College’s archives, documenting and studying depictions and erasures of marginalized populations in historical materials. Because of my disciplinary background, I am most interested in the archives’ rhetorical role, or in other terms, how the records and materials we deem worthy of saving define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging. 

My posts this summer have focused on the lack of neutrality in historical records and articles, such as Davidson’s yearbooks and newspapers. We’ve discussed how editorial choices—to include, to omit, how to frame—affect the historical record. This week, however, I’ll turn my attention to the construction of the archive itself; how we must understand it not as a complete and impartial repository, but as a composition that reflects the intentions, priorities, and ethics of those tasked with creating, maintaining, and displaying it.

The 1968–1969 school year was a pivotal one for Davidson; it saw the abolishment of compulsory ROTC (“Board Follows Faculty Lead, Assents to Voluntary ROTC,” p.1),  anti-war protests (“Peace Group, Navy Vie,” p. 6), the presidential election (“The Davidsonian Report: Election–1968,” p. 3), murmurs about coeducation (“Coeducation Gets Overwhelming Support in Student-Faculty Poll”, p.1), the end of campus curfew (“Faculty Vote Opens Dorm Doors,” p. 1), the town going “wet,” (“State ABC Board Approves Permit,” p. 1)  and ongoing criticism of the treatment of black students at Davidson (“Black Students in an Ivory Tower,” p. 3). While auditing the physical collection of that year’s Davidsonians, I hit a snag. An entire issue was missing! April 11th’s paper was not included in the bound collection; however, subsequent references to the issue confirmed that not only did it exist, but that it also upset many members of the community. 

Letters to—and from—the editors suggested that an inflammatory letter to the editor had been published, one that had contained a personal attack. Elizabeth Smyre of Gastonia writes to say, “To include ‘good taste’ as a criterion for publication is an example of responsible editing” (Davidsonian, 2 May 1969, p.2). Mrs. Frontis Johnston, wife of the dean of faculty, comments that she has “never before read columns of such incredible rudeness” (Davidsonian, 18 April, p.2). The editors promise that, because of the furor, they would no longer publish letters to the editor that “constitute personal attacks”(Davidsonian, 18 April, p. 2). 

I assumed the archival omission of this hot-button item was merely a mistake. The library keeps two bound collections of each year’s Davidsonians; maybe only one copy had been saved for binding? However, when consulting the volume that is not available for public browsing, I found the same gap. 

My mind swirled with possibilities: what on earth was the archive hiding? Criticism of the administration? Offensive comments by a professor? Publication of a malicious rumor? Driven by curiosity, I asked Sharon Byrd—Davidson’s “Institutional Memory”—about the omission. She was able to point me to a scan of the microfilm of the April 11th issue. What I found answered some questions, but raised new ones. 

The item that had caused so much tumult was a letter to the editor from a Taylor Adams of New York City. Mr. Adams, an advertising executive, writes after viewing the Davidson team compete in the GE College Bowl, a popular televised trivia show. To avoid amplifying Adams’ objectionable statements, I’ll paraphrase his comments: he expresses disdain for the team captain’s North Carolina accent, explaining that, in his view, such a dialect represents stereotypes Southerners have tried to overcome. Mr. Adams minces no words and manages to malign not only the College Bowl captain, but also Davidson, the state of North Carolina, and the black community. 

The 1969 Davidson GE College Bowl team was named a champion team after winning the maximum five consecutive matches.  Men stand with sign that says "Congratulations G.E. Bowl Champs."
The 1969 Davidson GE College Bowl team was named a champion team after winning the maximum five consecutive matches. 

The preservation of a microfilm, but not a physical, record of this letter is peculiar. We’re not sure who made decisions about binding in 1961, and to be clear, we’re not certain that the omission was purposeful. However, if we speculate that it was, what would such a choice indicate? My hunch is that although this person(s) recognized the necessity of keeping a complete record, they hesitated to place an ad hominem attack on a student in the library’s browsing collection. It’s an understandable example of an intervention made in the name of ethics. But was it the right one? Although the omission prevented circulation of a malicious screed, it also obscured reality, making it more difficult for a historian of the institution to access the full record.

As is often the case in the presentation of historical texts (or statues, plaques, etc), the addition of context and framing could go a long way in mediating the frequently conflicting pressures of ethics and historical transparency. Rather than present Mr. Adams’ offensive words in a relative void, one solution could be to redact them from the printed copy, but include directions for accessing them digitally and a short explanation that the redacted item contains objectionable material. 

What do you think? If the omission was purposeful, was it the right choice? Should anything be redacted or omitted from the record—even if has the potential to hurt or offend? What kind of context should frame objectionable material?

Editorial Voices, part 2

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team. I’ll be scouring the College’s archives, documenting and studying depictions and erasures of marginalized populations in historical materials. Because of my disciplinary background, I am most interested in the archives’ rhetorical role, or in other terms, how the records and materials we deem worthy of saving define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging. 

Last week I used the 1959–1960 Davidsonian to illustrate how editorial choices play a large role determining what is recorded as public opinion. A college paper, the Davidsionian presents an extreme example of this phenomenon, as the annual rotation of editors produced highly divergent editorial policies from year to year—all under the masthead “The News and Editorial Voice of Davidson College.” 

Masthead of the February 28, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian. The Davidsonian referred to as "The News and Editorial Voice Of The Davidson College"
Masthead of The Davidsonian, February 28, 1964.

As the 1960s progressed, and the newspaper began tackling more controversial issues—particularly civil rights, Communism, tensions in Vietnam, and the college’s ties to the Presbyterian Church—the assumed association between “editorial voice” and popular opinion became a source of anxiety for some. The 1963–1964 paper, under editor David Stitt, had assumed a decidedly liberal stance, reporting extensively on racial issues, endorsing a student-led march in support of the Civil Rights Act, and questioning the school’s religious commitments. 

In the first week of March 1964, David Stitt received the following correspondence from the College president: 

At the recent meeting of the Trustees the following motion was made and unanimously approved: “that the Editors of the Davidsonian be requested to remove from the masthead of that paper the words, ‘the news and editorial voice of Davidson College’ and that appropriate words in substitution thereof be worked out between the staff of the Davidsonian and the Administration of the college.” 

D. Grier Martin

Trustee meeting minutes are not available for review, so perhaps we’ll never know definitively what most irked the Board. However, there are several hints that growing critiques of Christian influence were particularly disturbing to the Trustees, many of whom were ministerial representatives of the Presbyterian Church. The Davidsonian decision came at the same meeting at which the Board had decided to amend, but ultimately retain, the Christian loyalty oath required of tenure track professors, a policy the Davidsonian had strongly opposed (“The Oath,” Davidsonian 7 Feb 1964, p. 2). The retention of the oath came on the heels of a controversial National Review article (only available to institutional subscribers), which suggested that 82 percent of Davidson students experienced “anti-religious reaction.”

Furthermore, many alumni and parents had been upset by a recent campus appearance by Michael Scriven, a philosopher of science who spoke on the “Non-Existence of God” in a discussion sponsored by the YMCA. (“YMCA’s Forum Draws Avowed Atheist, Minister,” Davidsonian, 10 Jan 1964, p.1). The event, which was covered by the Charlotte Observer and the Charlotte News, provoked many devout Christian readers to send letters of protest to the editors of the Observer, News, and Davidsonian (“Area Fundamentalists Protest Athiest’s [sic] Talk,” Davidsonian, 14 Feb 1964, p. 2)

Headshot of Dr. Michael Scriven from an article of The Davidsonian discussing his talk at Davidson entitled "Non-Existence of God"
Headshot of Dr. Michael Scriven, The Davidsonian, January 10, 1964.

Whatever its cause, the Board’s decree led the editorial board to adopt a bulker compromise masthead : The News and Editorial Voice of the Davidson College Student Body. While the change doesn’t appear to have affected day-to-day operations, it underlines the weight carried by the term “editorial voice.” It was hefty enough that it concerned the Board of Trustees, a group with undeniably greater material control over the state of affairs than any editor of the Davidsonian. With one seemingly minor copyedit, the Davidsonian’s constituency was minimized: it was no longer the voice of students, alumni, faculty, administration, and staff. It was simply the voice of the students. 

Masthead of the March 20, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian. The Davidsonian referred to as "The News and Editorial Voice Of The Davidson College Student Body"
Masthead of The Davidsonian, March 20, 1964.

In short, the scramble over the masthead provides yet another example of how rhetorical framing matters. An editor with a wide mandate has the opportunity to dictate how history is recorded. But that power is vulnerable; it is easily hacked away with a few semantic changes. With one stroke of the pen, or in this case, a few strokes on the typewriter, editorial possibilities are foreclosed and administrative power is exerted.

Editorial Voices, part 1

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team. I’ll be scouring the College’s archives, documenting and studying depictions and erasures of marginalized populations in historical materials. Because of my disciplinary background, I am most interested in the archives’ rhetorical role, or in other terms, how the records and materials we deem worthy of saving define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging.

This week, I took on the Davidsonian, the college’s weekly newspaper. In an era of “fake news” and “activist journalism,” we’re used to scrutinizing our new sources. We typically associate this with verifying claims; today there are dozens of resources devoted to this goal, including FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, and CNN’s ongoing “Facts First” features. However, our consideration shouldn’t stop there. In this post, I’ll use historical issues of the Davidsonian to illustrate the power of the editor, not only in issuing opinions that claim to be representative, but also in choosing which stories are told and how.

In the late 50s and early 60s, the Davidsionian’s masthead proclaimed: “The News and Editorial Voice of Davidson College.”  For the most part, editorials in the Davidsonian ran unsigned. Although a note in small font clarifies that “unsigned editorials are by the editor,” these articles’ framing as the “voice of Davidson”—rather than the voice of an individual—suggests they are incontestable. One gets an artificial feeling that the piece speaks for the whole community.

Thus, the editor plays a strong role writing history: a researcher referencing the Davidsionian may get completely different perspectives on college opinion depending on who was at the publication’s helm. Because the Davidsonian’s editor changes every year, this means the tone and coverage of the paper can—and does—change dramatically between consecutive issues.  

For example, consider the following editorial positions from issues of the Davidsonian:

“The editorial policy we consider most vital to the future of Davidson takes precedence over all of those enumerated in this column. If it is violated Davidson will lose far more than she will gain. We oppose the admission of Negroes to Davidson—now or ever.”

“It is disappointing to see prejudice sneak into the meetings of the policymaking body of the college. This prejudice is almost unavoidable to a person who was reared in the South. But try as we have to find one, a significant justification of a segregated Davidson is almost non-existent.”

With such divergent arguments, one might assume these excerpts represent different eras. After all, remember that the Davidsionian’s masthead claims the paper is “the news and editorial voice of Davidson College”—for public opinion to have swayed so significantly, considerable time must have passed, right? Wrong. The first passage is from 15 January 1960. The second is from 16 February 1960.

In all likelihood, the student body’s consensus on integration did not change dramatically during those 32 days. What did change was the editor of the Davidsonian. The former position was articulated by editor Ed Armfield Jr, who graduated in January 1960. The second position was penned by Dick Smith, who assumed the role of editor on 5 February.

Editorial impact goes beyond editorials, of course. The previous year, the school’s trustees had voted against opening admission to black students. Rather than settle the issue, this sparked even greater controversy. In response, under Armfield’s leadership, the Davidsionian provided significant coverage—articles, interviews, speech excerpts—to figures such as Thomas R. Waring, notable proponent of “states’ rights” and segregation. It also republished inflammatory racist editorials from publications around the South, as well as 19th-century Davidson addresses that bemoaned abolition and civil rights. Armfield’s Davidsonian portrayed Davidson as a reactionary campus hostile to integration. On the other hand, Smith’s Davidsonian took a progressive activist bent, even going so far as to publish a special “Trustee Issue” that not-so-subtly devoted the majority of its content to persuading the board to reconsider their decision on desegregation.

The “truth” of public opinion probably lay somewhere in the middle—an unofficial Chapel poll in 1960 showed 297 against integration, 121 for immediate integration, and 178 for providing a path for integration. The contrast between the poll’s indecisive results and the Davidsonian’s (two) editorial stances underscores the rhetorical power of the editor. This individual chooses what is recorded as representative opinion. He (or she, after 1977 when Catherine Landis became the first female Davidsonian editor) chooses what stories are told, what figures are profiled. His or her decisions will inevitably shape how histories are written. In evaluating both present-day and historical news sources, we must consider editorial intent and influence. Who is reporting and who is editing? How are opinion pieces framed and flagged? Which stories and perspectives have been included and which have not? Perhaps most importantly, who benefits from drawing attention to this story or promoting this viewpoint?

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of this series, which examines outside influence on the Davidsionian’s editorial board.

The Spirit(s) of Davidson

Introducing guest blogger Hannah Foltz ’13! Look forward to additional posts this summer!

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team. I’ll be scouring the College’s archives, documenting and studying depictions and erasures of marginalized populations in historical materials. Because of my disciplinary background, I am most interested in the archives’ rhetorical role, or in other terms, how the records and materials we deem worthy of saving work to define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging.


This week, I’ve been working my way through Quips and Cranks, the College’s yearbook. One of the volumes’ most popular tropes is that of the “Davidson Spirit.” Year in and year out, it is heralded as that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes Davidson a special place. Even today, College marketing centers on the notion of being “Distinctly Davidson.”

But what does it mean to possess the “Davidson Spirit?” I was struck by the evolution of this concept, which is illustrated by contrasting the Forewords of Quips & Cranks from 1933 and 1952.

Foreword of the 1933 Quips and Cranks discussing the "Spirit of Davidson." The text is framed by illustrations of campus, including male students under a tree.
Foreword of the 1933 Quips and Cranks discussing the “Spirit of Davidson.”

“Davidson’s student life is in itself homogeneous and simple. Davidson’s spirit is emblematic of the unpretentious denying itself the luxuries of form and show. Davidson’s faculty, like her students, are alike in tastes and pursuits. Davidson’s traditions are few but powerful, making evident the sameness of the mould in which we are all cast. Davidson’s athletics speak eloquently of this same spirit of modesty. Davidson’s activities add voices of modulation to the general tone.

Of this life without superfulity and unwanted ostentation Davidson’s Yearbook attempts to speak. Therefore with simple lines and plain colors we have built a monument to that Spirit of Davidson.”

1933 (Robert L. McCallie, ed.)


1952 Quips and Cranks foreword discussing the spirit of Davidson. Images of students and faculty line the edges of the page.
Foreword to the 1952 edition of Quips and Cranks.

“Every man in the class is different. Everything we do is unique. We are a class and as a group we have characteristics that are solely our own. We have lived together and suffered together and out of this heroic mixture we have developed a sense of brotherhood that makes us distinct from any other class before and since…

The Davidson Story is not devoted to any one class or any one group of any description. It is a blend, whether good or bad, of the character of anyone that has ever participated in the corporate life that is the college. From the President to the rawest janitor, each has a role and a line in the comedy or the tragedy that is Davidson.”

1952 ( William A. Adams, ed.)

While perhaps the dourness of 1933 can be attributed to Depression-era values or a reaction against rising fascism abroad, it’s clear that its notion of the Davidson Spirit is one that is static and inherent. It is something one is born with, something that determines membership in the community. It is very Protestant. It is a “sameness of mould.”

Fortunately, by 1952, the notion of the Davidson Spirit (or Story, in this case) had grown closer to how we conceive of it today: an ethos developed through a shared transformative experience, not through any inherent sameness. This Spirit can be taken up by every member of the community, each in his own way. This Spirit includes a recognition of the good—and the bad—in its past and present. All in all, where the other is unchangeable and exclusive, this Spirit is dynamic and welcoming.

Yes, Davidson was still far from realizing this ideal Spirit in 1952; it was still all male, and virtually all white and all Christian. And yet, this articulation of an alternative kind of unity marks an important step towards building the kind of inclusive, generous, and enjoyable educational community we are still striving to create.

Guest Blogger: Emelyn Schaeffer, “The Years Flew By in Colors”*

My name is Emelyn Schaeffer and I am from Atlanta, GA. I am approaching my sophomore year at Davidson and I am thinking about double majoring in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies. I am excited about working in Archives and Special Collections this summer, learning more about how the library operates, and discovering more about Davidson’s past.

This weekend is Alumni Reunion Weekend for Davidson and we are collecting some publications written by members of the classes attending to showcase during Saturday’s Avant Garde lunch. It is the class of 1963’s 55th reunion and they are being honored with an induction into the Avant Garde. With this in mind, we took a peek into what life was like on Davidson’s campus in 1963.

The spring issue of Scripts ’n Pranks – a literary and satirical magazine published for students to showcase their classmates’ work – in the 1962-1963 school year is called the “Mud-Luscious, Puddle Wonderful Issue” and features an Alice in Wonderland inspired cover.

Cover of Scripts 'n Pranks showing Alice in Wonderland characters gazing at Alice in a swimming hole filled with alcoholCover of Scripts ‘n Pranks April, 1963

One of the editors commented on a collection of pictures of “The Young Turks.” The Book Review speaks of W. Wolfe’s Youth Movements as a satirical novel, but declares, “All true satire bears a moral viewpoint, since otherwise the satirist would have no enduring purpose, but Wolfe lets his outrage ruin his art.”

Scripts 'n Pranks black and white advertisement, showing the same individual on every seat of a planeScripts ‘n Pranks Advertisement

The class of 1963 was the first one for which Inklings was published, a collection of writing from the class during its freshman year. It includes a mix of genres, from fiction to articles on current events. Back-to-back articles include “How Great Thou Art” and “Man in the Age of the Hydrogen Bomb,” which could point to some mixed feeling on the future of the world.

Cover of Inklings, 1963, Writings by Freshmen

Cover of Inklings, 1963

The annual – Quips and Cranks – of 1963 discusses heritage and college as a game that must be learned in order to succeed:

Cover of Quips and Cranks Cover 1963, green cover with the title written forward and backwards

Quips and Cranks Cover 1963

“When the student is apart from the crowd, he allows himself to think, talk or joke about Davidson. It is then that he questions his purpose in life, wonders what his career should be, and estimates what he has learned and accomplished. In that moment, alone, he leaves the game, looks at it and himself, and is shamefully conscious that he has grossly underestimated the goals he must attain in order to be a well educated man. In these moments, alone, the student has realized his failure and has made himself more aware of the ideals he must fulfill. He will once again attempt, no matter how fruitlessly, to succeed.”

In the senior section, the editors added:

“After graduation, the senior finds time to evaluate his college achievements and to look at his future. He realizes that he has had little time during the past year to play the game of college and wonders whether the game taught him anything about himself or was even adequate preparation for this ending and beginning. It does not seem as important as he first thought, and, perhaps, if he had not played, it would not have made any difference. But, as he rationalizes, can a student accomplish anything without the game?”

While I, as a Davidson student, laugh a little at these passages because of how they echo some of my own thoughts as I look towards my future, I hope the alumni of this class now look back on their time at Davidson with a heart full of pride and love for a place that properly prepared them for all they thought to attempt and succeed in doing. Many things may have changed on this campus and in this world in the last 55 years, but the traditions we share – the Freshman Cake Race, the Honor Code, outlets of creativity, hard work, and love of this school – will forever connect alumni and students.

*lyrics from Dan Hill’s “Growing Up”

Quips, Cranks, and Wanton Wiles: Origins of the College Yearbook’s Title

In yesterday’s issue of the campus newspaper, The Davidsonian, an article by Emma Brentjens ’21 profiled the two women behind the school’s yearbook–Quips and Cranks. Mariah Clarke ‘18 and Hayley Atkins ‘18 are currently co-Editors-in-Chief of the 123 year-old publication. The Quips and Cranks was founded in 1895 and, according to College Archivist DebbieLee Landi, the yearbook originally served as a creative outlet for students, becoming the second campus publication of student work and interests beyond the Davidson Monthly. Since 1895, Quips and Cranks has connected students, archivists and alumni with Davidson College’s past.

Cloth book cover. Colorblocked with one thick teal stripe on the left side, the rest is beige. "QUIPS AND CRANKS" is written in gold lettering.

Quips and Cranks 1895, volume I.

While most members of the Davidson community are more than familiar with the college yearbook, Quips and Cranks, they may be less familiar with the origins of its title.  

The title comes from a line of Milton’s poem L’Allegro as published in his 1645 anthology, Poems. The poem is a companion to another Milton piece, Il Penseroso. As Jennifer Hickey and Thomas H. Luxon of the John Milton Reading Room at Dartmouth College describe the pairing, “l’allegro is the “happy person who spends an idealized day in the country as a festive evening in the city, il penseroso is “the thoughtful person” whose night is filled with meditative walking in the woods and hours of study in a ‘lonely Towr’.” The poem puts at odds the sensations of mirth and melancholy through the perspectives of a man enjoying the wonders of nature in the countryside and vibrant city life.

Specifically, the yearbook title comes from this passage:

Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee

Jest and youthful Jollity,

Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,

Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles,

Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,

And love to live in dimple sleek;

Sport that wrinkled Care derides,

And Laughter holding both his sides.

Here, Milton is idolizing the joys the nature brings to one who walks within it, such joys indeed are also brought to the students of Davidson College by one another. For those who seek to share some of that joy, digitized copies of the Quips and Cranks dating back to the 1895 edition and as recent as 2011 can be found on the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections website.

Matte silver book cover featuring shiny lowercase cursive writing reading "davidson" up the right side of the cover and the wildcat logo. "Quips and Cranks" is featuring on the lower left diagonal side of the logo.

Quips and Cranks 2017, volume CXIV.

The full version of L’Allegro can be found here.

The John Milton Reading Room article on L’Allegro can be found here.

The article from The Davidsonian can be founds here.

 

Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College”

This is part one of a two-part post; the second post will be on Wednesday of this week.

I am a Class of 2019 Africana Studies and Latin American Studies double major at Davidson College from Camden, New Jersey. My interests range from the social and cultural intersections of the African diaspora and Latin America to the political and linguistic disparities between the two.

In the United States, many criticize the system for its failure to provide change inclusive enough to satisfy diverse populations. This system, whose evolutionary apparatus has been a combination of racism and white supremacy, cannot improve as long as its inconsistencies remain unchanged or are changed without its history in mind. In my opinion, Davidson College has done a decent job at separating itself as an institution from the greater system within which it exists. While the college has undone most discriminatory practices, blindness has been a leading instrument in the college’s push for improvement throughout its recent history. A system built on blindness – whether color-blindness, class-blindness, or any other form – is as flawed a system as one built on racism. This is not because one or the other is more prone to oppression, but instead because blindness does not work toward its own eventual goal of undoing structural oppression and underrepresentation. Davidson’s present reality of incomplete social inclusivity and color-blind ideologies can be attributed to its history of color-blindness as an apparatus of change in Davidson’s social realm. Contradictions of inclusivity within Patterson Court organizations, arguments against the diversification of Greek life, and minimal representation on campus have prolonged Davidson’s improvement historically.

Davidson College’s preference for color-blindness does not mean it is incapable of making anti-racist decisions. In terms of black student admission, Davidson had its first African American alumnus in 1968 with Wayne Crumwell, officially admitting him in 1964. This goes against the common narratives of near universal southern pushback against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that called for scholastic integration.

Black and white photograph of Wayne Crumwell, portrait style, 1968

Wayne Crumwell, Class of 1968

 

Just five years earlier, the Davidson College Board of Trustees insisted that 1959 was not a time when the “admission of Negroes” was in the “best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes.”[1] In that same vein, in a pre-1964 majority report by a few higher-ups at Davidson College, there were some interesting arguments against the admission of African Americans to Davidson College. These ranged from how the college would have to “lower the quality of its education” to how the admission of blacks would encourage miscegenation, which was outlawed at the time.[2] Yet, as soon as the civil rights law compelled Davidson to comply with integration, the college as an institution did so relatively quickly. In addition to that, by 1970 the Black Student Coalition was founded on campus.[3] Davidson’s speed in diversifying its student body and providing representation for its minority student demographic are evidence of the college’s ability to push toward anti-racism and cultural representation despite strong opposition within the community. However, following the increasing level of diversity on campus in terms of gender and race, Davidson began to favor a color-blind ideology that guided decisions that would soon alter the appearance and atmosphere of the space.

By 1989, Davidson College had six white fraternities in Patterson Court. In that same year, a student debate regarding whether to introduce a black fraternity to Patterson Court surfaced. On October 25, 1989, a white Davidson College senior named Tom Moore wrote a piece responding negatively to one written by a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., interest group a few weeks earlier. In his piece, Moore argued that a black fraternity “would segregate the campus” and that assimilation is the “best way to improve lines of communication”; he even contends that a black fraternity sounds like “the rationale for the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine” and that minorities on campus should just assimilate because Davidson’s predominately white social circles reflect the social reality of America.[4] Although radical, Moore’s comments illuminate the basis of the inclusivity argument that: existing social organizations at Davidson are already inclusive and the exclusivity of a different organization would fragment the campus. This inclusivity argument, as one will see, goes on to repeat itself throughout Davidson’s evolution. In response to Moore’s statements, black junior Darry Strickland published in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian what would be the opposite pole of the debate. Strickland called out Moore on his “ethnocentric attitude” and communicated how black males at the college were forced to assimilate into white fraternities if they wished to participate in Greek life on campus at all.[5] Even though white fraternities at Davidson College were not allowed to racially discriminate explicitly at the time, there is a reason that black male students interested in Greek life were not joining these fraternities at the college en masse. The organizations may have been inclusive on paper, but not diverse enough. They maintained their inclusivity, neglecting why it failed in the diversification of white organizations. Although this contradiction of inclusivity was not necessarily the fault of the existing organizations on campus, Moore failed to acknowledge what black students wanted.

black and white photograph Melissa Givens, portrait style, 1989

Melissa Givens, Class of 1989

 

Black senior Melissa Givens makes this clear in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian as well, providing more insight into how blacks fared in the Davidson social scene. In her commentary, she calls on Moore and the Davidson College community repeatedly to “accept and celebrate the differences” as opposed to recognizing them without their celebration, as the college had been doing.[6] In other words, some within the Davidson College had been viewing differences as divisive, including Moore. I agree with Givens that assimilation silences those voices that are not a part of the majority. Her argument combats color-blindness directly and is one of the earlier moments of analysis identical to mine.

 

Bibliography, Part One

[1] Davidson College Board of Trustees. Meeting Summary, 1959.

[2] Davidson College Admissions Committee, “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

[3] “Black Student Coalition House Showcases New Student-Painted Mural,” Davidson College News, September 11, 2013.

[4] Tom Moore. “Here’s how a black fraternity could be a bad idea,” Davidsonian Column, October 25, 1989.

[5] Darry Strickland. “A black fraternity is not an insidious plot,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989.

[6] Melissa Givens. “A frat is not separate but equal—just different,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989

Fake News @ Davidson, A Multidisciplinary Discussion and a Humor Column

FOILING FAKE NEWS: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY DISCUSSION ON NAVIGATING THE MEDIA

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 – 11:05 AM – 12:05 PM
Fake news has become a buzzword that can mean many things to many people. But what does it mean for us at Davidson? How prepared are students to identify fake news and navigate today’s media? How might a liberal arts approach inform our understanding of fake news and help us avoid being taken in by it? Join us for a panel discussion to explore these questions. Librarians will present data about incoming Davidson students’ ability to evaluate media sources and faculty members will bring their unique disciplinary training to bear on the issue of fake news.

LOCATION
Knobloch Campus Center Alvarez- Smith 900 Room

Foiling Fake News poster

There have been a number of college humor magazines in Davidson’s history: Scripts and Pranks, The David’s Onion, The Davidphonian, The Devoidsonian and The Yowl; although, The Yowl is the only edition to be reawakened in the twenty-first century.  In 2004, it reappeared as a column in “The Davidsonian”, bringing its version of the news to provide entertainment to the Davidson community.  The final issue of the 2016-2017 academic term proclaimed, “This Issue Brought to You By: Undying Cynicism”  and provided “The Yowl’s Year in Review.”  The September 7, 2017 issue, in keeping with the theme of fake news, stated, “This Issue Brought To You By: A Gross Violation of Journalistic Integrity.”

 

The Chameleon’s Color: The Story of a Short-Lived Student Literary Magazine

This week’s blog highlights a short-lived student-run literary magazine: The Chameleon. The Chameleon, which ran from 1926 through 1930, was born out of the Davidson Monthly, first published in 1870. In the 1880s the Monthly became Davidson College Magazine, and then morphed into The Chameleon in 1926.

The first issue of The Chameleon, May 1926. Orange with a little chameleon on the cover.

The first issue of The Chameleon, May 1926.

The first issue, put out in May 1926, showed a magazine in transition – no single editor was named, but editorial duties were credited to the Blue Pencil Chapter of Sigma Upsilon, which was the local chapter of a southern literary society. By the November 1926 issue, Holcombe M. Austin (Class of 1927), who had had a short story published in that first Chameleon issue a few months prior, was installed as editor. Austin penned the first “Cham’s Colors” editorial, which explained the impetus behind the shift in the publication and its goals:

Last spring an alumnus, three years graduate, when he had finished reading the red-covered pamphlet, the ‘official, licensed magazine’, sent to him from his alma mater, commented, “Why the boys don’t believe in the kind of stuff that’s in here. This wild thing is just a half-baked imitation of the green-backed radical type of magazine. I know that the thinking men in The College aren’t in sympathy with this kind of thing.”

In attempting escape from the brand “collegiate” the college magazine has wandered afield, lost its way, and with that scarified its value as a student publication.

THE CHAMELEON would be otherwise, would be distinctly Davidson, distinctly student… CHAM wants on his pages the color of student opinion and thought.

Holcombe M. Austin's full editorial in the first issue of the new Chameleon, November 1926.

Holcombe M. Austin’s full editorial in the first issue of the new Chameleon, November 1926.

The Davidsonian covered the release of the December 1926 Cham in their December 16 issue, explaining that “various types of criticism received concerning the first number of this magazine have aided materially in molding the form of this edition.” The story went on to explain the recurring design scheme of The Chameleon:

The Chameleon will begin its policy of changing colors every issue with this edition. The cover of this number being a light blue, the name of the magazine and the usual cut being printed with dark blue ink and shaded with silver. This combination will make as striking an appearance as the jacket in which the first edition was enclosed.

The first three covers of the new run of The Chameleon, showing the repeated design.

The first three covers of the new run of The Chameleon, showing the repeated design.

The cover design of The Chameleon followed this pattern from November 1926 until February 1930. In the December 1936 issue, editor Holcombe M. Austin expanded upon the purpose of the magazine:

The cry of every college editor, the cry, for that matter, of every editor who pilots a magazine of literary pretensions, is for the distinctive, “the original.” Not that the bizarre or extreme is demanded, but when there comes to the editor’s desk a short story or essay through strangely characteristic style or curiousness of subject matter achieves the unusual, his heart is filled with gladness. He clasps the manuscript to his bosom and gives praise… CHAM is looking forward to spring raiment. Then, as now, color without, and so help him students, within!

After this editorial no others were published in the magazine until what would be its last issue in February 1930. In that issue, which also featured a new cover design, editor-in-chief Robert F. Jarratt (Class of 1930), explained the changes to the magazine and hinted at its uncertain future:

Ever faithful to the connotation of its name, the CHAMELEON again changes… During it’s life the CHAMELEON has the Quips and Cranks, and the Davidsonian, both grow to maturity. While the CHAMELEON instead of growing stronger with the passing years, has deteriorated with age…

For the past few years there have been constant changes in the CHAMELEON, all due to the efforts of the editor to strike upon a combination that will be pleasing to the members of the student body, and also reflect the best of student body literary efforts. What few changes that will be made this year, are only tentative efforts to hit upon this combination. Whether they are effective will be demonstrated by their performance.

The cover and editorial of the February 1930 issue.

The cover and editorial of the February 1930 issue.

Unfortunately, The Chameleon‘s redesign did not save it, and the February 1930 issue was its last. College humor magazines The Yowl and Scripts ‘N’ Pranks sprung up in 1935 and 1936 to fill the gap, and Davidson College was without a strictly literary student-run magazine until Hobart Park began in 1978.

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Freshman: Highlighting Student Publication Sanity Rare

Student publications are invaluable to the Archives & Special Collections here at Davidson College – we use the annual Quips and Cranks and weekly newspaper The Davidsonian countless times per semester in instruction and to answer reference questions. In addition to verifying facts, these student-produced publications provide insight into student culture at the time they were written. Recently, while answering a reference question, I stumbled across a reference to a short-lived student humor magazine called Sanity Rare.

Covers of the 1925 and 1926 issues of Sanity Rare.

Covers of the 1925 and 1926 issues of Sanity Rare.

Sanity Rare was published by the Junior Class as part of the Junior Speaking program in 1925, 1926, and 1927. By the 1920s Junior Speaking, which had grown out of commencement exercises for the Junior and Senior classes, separated from the Senior exercises and turned unto a social weekend featuring variety shows. Later, Junior Speaking would morph into a dance weekend and then Spring Frolics, still celebrated today. Sanity Rare, published in conjunction with Junior Speaking, was filled with jokes, cartoons, short poems, and advertisements for local businesses. The 1927 Quips and Cranks featured a page on Sanity Rare, describing the magazine as “a safety valve for the humorists and cartoonists on the campus.”

Cover of the 1927 issue of Sanity Rare, and the student activity page describing the magazine and listing its staff in the 1927 Quips and Cranks.

Cover of the 1927 issue of Sanity Rare, and the student activity page describing the magazine and listing its staff in the 1927 Quips and Cranks.

Like the longer-running humor magazines The Yowl (1930 – 1936, revived as a column in The Davidsonian in 2004) and Scripts ‘N Pranks (1936 – 1965), Sanity Rare poked fun at Davidson students (particularly freshmen), faculty, and traditions and as well as social issues of the time.

This cartoon from the 1925 Sanity Rare pokes fun at a practical life application of chemistry studies - making moonshine.

This cartoon from the 1925 Sanity Rare pokes fun at a practical life application of chemistry studies – making moonshine during prohibition.

From the 1926 Sanity Rare, the joke this blog takes its title from. "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Freshman."

From the 1926 Sanity Rare, the joke this blog takes its title from.

"Junior Class Questionnaire" from the 1926 Sanity Rare. Example questions, "Do you Smoke? Have you ever used your room-mate's razor? Have you ever slept in church? Have you ever thrown water out of a window?"

“Junior Class Questionnaire” from the 1926 Sanity Rare.

A page in the 1927 Sanity Rare lampoons, "Sanity Rare We Dedicate this here Edition to them "Trustys" what deep down in there heart did vote that us mite begin injoy the art of....", then there is an illustration of two people dancing and below them, "1927 A.D."

Dances were not permitted on campus until the 1940s, as this is page in the 1927 Sanity Rare lampoons.

This joke from the 1927 Sanity Rare ribs both fraternities and Davidson's boarding house tradition. "A fraternity house is a place where a fellow pays perfectly good money for food which he wouldn't eat at home--and so is your old boarding house."

This joke from the 1927 Sanity Rare ribs both fraternities and Davidson’s boarding house tradition.

Many of the jokes in the magazine surrounded dating and Sanity Rare‘s editorial page always listed several women under the category “Inspirational and Otherwise,” perhaps commenting on the fact that many students invited dates to Junior Speaking weekend. The 1926 editorial page, for instance, opens with this address to its readers: “SANITY RARE extends to the many young ladies, who have honored us with their presence on this joyous occasion, a most sincere welcome. During the long winter months as we sat in our rooms, thinking fondly of the days of Junior Speaking, the thought of your presence among us was an inspiration.”

Editorial page of the 1926 issue of Sanity Rare.

Editorial page of the 1926 issue of Sanity Rare, which also calls for the establishment of a regular humor magazine on campus – a void that The Yowl and then Scripts ‘N Pranks would later fill.

While Sanity Rare and other college humor magazines provide a valuable glimpse into student life from an earlier period, they also often illustrate intolerance – much of the material in Sanity Rare struck me as racist, sexist, and in poor taste. When our run of Scripts ‘N Pranks was digitized by a student during summer 2014 (Ellyson Glance ’16; see her post on her archives summer work here), she also commented on how many of the jokes in the pages of that mid-century humor magazine offended her.

This section from the 1925 issues of Sanity Rare is an example of the racist and antisemtic jokes that frequenrly appear in the pages of Sanity Rare. There is an illustration pared with the joke, it is a sketch of a street corner, there is a KKK member holding a stick, a sign that says, "Old Clothes Sale Cheap", with what is supposed to be Jewish people running around.

This section from the 1925 issue is an example of the racist and antisemitic jokes that frequently appear in the pages of Sanity Rare.

While jokes mocking the African-American population or giving dating “advice” that suggests date rape certainly does not make for enjoyable reading, these humor magazines are still providing a portrait of student life – in Sanity Rare‘s case, what some Davidson students found funny in the mid-1920s. Preserving material that provides negative views or makes researchers (and archivists!) uncomfortable is important – knowing what past generations of students considered acceptable within the bounds of humor lets today’s researchers gain insight into the specific culture of Davidson College, but also wider student culture and American culture.

As College President Carol Quillen commented in the recent Huffington Post article, “What Three College Presidents Learned from Campus Racism Protests,” “When students are looking to the institution… some of what they’re doing is saying, ‘Do your job’… your job is to give [them] what [they] need to go from this experience of marginalization and pain to a political position. That’s what education does, and insofar as we’re not doing that for them, we need to do better.” In this archivist’s opinion, part of doing my job better is aiding students and other researchers in understanding the history of Davidson College – even when that history reflects badly on our community.